The Virginia Association of Independent Schools on November 4, 2022, honored Norfolk Academy's headmaster, Mr. Dennis Manning, with its top award to recognize his decades of work to strengthen and elevate independent school education in Virginia.
Mr. Manning received the Sally K. Boese Distinguished Service Award, recognizing educators whose contributions extend beyond creating and sustaining excellent programs at their own institutions. Honorees of the award must inspire colleagues, encourage meaningful collaboration, advocate and advance independent school education, and work to lead and promote VAIS programs.
Beyond his 22 years of service as Norfolk Academy's headmaster, during which he has led the Academy to new heights in terms of programmatic excellence, expansion of the campus, and resources for students, Mr. Manning has made countless contributions to the broader independent school community. He served on the VAIS Board of Directors; served for a decade on the Southern Association of Independent Schools Board, including a two-year term as President; and currently serves as a member of the TASIS Foundation Board, which oversees schools in England, Switzerland, Portugal, and Puerto Rico.
Through his extraordinary ability to build strong and lasting relationships, Mr. Manning also has served as a mentor and supportive colleague to other heads of school across the country.
Betsy A. Johnson, executive director of VAIS, presented Mr. Manning with the award, given in Richmond during the association's annual conference. She said that he has given so much to VAIS, including his service on accreditation teams and role as a mentor to other school leaders.
“Mr. Manning is a truly passionate advocate for independent schools," she said. “He has dedicated every ounce of his energy to developing educational excellence."
Several of Mr. Manning's NA colleagues traveled to Richmond to celebrate the award with him. Among them was Mr. Alfred M. “Ran" Randolph Jr. '80, President of the school's Board of Trustees.
“As a school, we are appreciative of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools and its work to support and connect schools throughout the state, and we appreciate, as well, the association’s decision to honor Dennis and his unstinting efforts to shape students into compassionate, thoughtful citizens and leaders," Mr. Randolph said in a letter to the school community.
In a short acceptance speech, Mr. Manning recalled his childhood years and where he found joy.
“What I loved most about my life was school," he said. “Teams, teachers, coaches, I never wanted it to stop."
He also remembered seeing his father go to work at a job that he didn't love. Even as a child, he wondered about how that would feel, and he hoped that it would not be his fate in his professional life.
“I have played an endless game of hooky. I have been hiding out in school," he said. “It has been a remarkable honor and privilege to be part of the Commonwealth of Virginia, four great institutions, and the capstone, 22 years at Norfolk Academy."